Being a Woman in the Woods

My inspiration in finding myself hiking in the woods comes from Edith.

Edith was born in Reichenburg, in the Northern part of Czechoslovakia on February 27, 1936. World War II (That Terrible War, as Edith refers to it) was not yet felt by all the world. Edith grew up amongst bombs dropping on cities nearby, and her mother running with her and her sister Ilse, into the woods, and then taking cover in dense trees. After the threat passed, they would stay and pick berries and mushrooms. The woods became a covert peace for Edith, and as she grew elder, she would return to the woods in the form of long hikes that fulfilled her adventurous spirit. This story, Edith’s story, is how I found myself hiking alone in the woods nearby our camp.

We camp host on the Olympic Peninsula within a 500 acre tree farm to the South, the Strait of Juan De Fuca and then Canada to the North, wilderness to the West, and cities to the East. There are more trails than one could ever have time to hike, unless of course you lived here. I suppose if you made it a life ambition to hike all the trails, you might be able. For every trail, there is generally a logging road to get there. Trespassing will get you pinched with buckshot or packs of dogs chasing after you. Tourists remark commonly ‘Last night we went down this road and pitched a tent in a field’ and they do not know they are trespassing and was just plain lucky to not get caught. Some audacity that we as humans think we own what is not ours.  Let’s all camp in that guys yard…But this is the case, and now I go on.

The woods nearby at Salt Creek recreation are host to campers on the hillside overlooking the Strait, as well as being a military bunker built in World War II that was never utilized, as the war ended before completion.  Land mines, balloons from Japan that blew up sporadically, and cougars now occupy the lands around Salt Creek, and fortunately the first 2 are very rare to find in present times.

I needed a small place to call my own, a hiding hole just off trail in which to be recluse. I found a deer trail that led to a split tree that is leaning against a fallen tree now creating a little square entrance to a log with plenty of ivy and stinging nettles all around. The hill to the East is actually a bunker, and creates a cover for the hillside of trees in which I nestle. Fluffy, who has taken to riding on top of all my supplies in my backpack, snores softly from his perch. I think of Edith.

The quiet is only interrupted by the surf and the constant wind. I think of Edith, as a small child picking mushrooms and berries, and I pick some honeysuckle and timidly pull the sweetness out of the end of the honeysuckle. Then of course my ADHD brain kicks in and thoughts of ‘Into the Wild’ creep in. (I tell Carlton 7 hours later that I may have eaten poison, but I think it was honeysuckle).  I hit my 10,000 steps easily on the FitBit Charge 2 HR, in which I just acquired so that I no longer have to carry my phone with me. This is great because the phone is ridiculously large and I have no cell reception or internet what so ever. Phone is for Town Time. Now I can chart my activity, sleep and have a minute of meditation without having to drag my phone around. I can be fully present now.

I think about all the women I know that have done life differently. I know women who have come from nothing and worked for everything. I know women who have struggled to understand why they feel different.   I know women brave enough to live a life that fulfills them. Finding a mentor in these times is tough. I see mentors all around, and yet I fear the rejection of all of these women. Why would they reject me? They would not reject me; I place myself in solitary and keep distances to avoid rejection. My brain is busy in the woods, while I huff and puff my tired body around the cliff-side, wondering why I feel upset in my ‘woman ball’ (the knot that forms in the solar plexus whenever I have an intuition of something being wrong).

The answer came the next day. Carlton and I had not gone on a honeymoon and he had listened to all my pleading for a vacation we had never taken. Off to Colette’s Bed and Breakfast, down a winding treed road, on a bluff overlooking the Strait near Sequim WA. The gardens were advertised as a 4 season garden, and the garden did not disappoint! The Rhododendrons were some 20 feet high, and a mixture of Ornamental grasses and huge flowers walked us to the grand foyer, where a little sign said to ‘ring the bell’ for check in.

Clif, the Innkeeper, met us with the warmest smile I have ever seen. The smile and gesture immediately soothed my nerves (I had never stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, and only knew of them due to Edith’s memoirs). I thought he would throw us out as soon as we arrived in an old Toyota van. Instead, Clif toured us through the Great room, which was stocked full of snacks, tea, and big cozy couches. There was a library nook next to the fireplace and floor to ceiling windows overlooking the yard and ocean, with local papers available for reading.

The Jacuzzi tub was worth every penny of that one night stay. I took 2 baths, one at night and one in morning following a decadent breakfast. The second Innkeeper told us of how much they loved and missed their Toyota van. We were accepted here, and welcomed so warmly. We left with cheer in our hearts.

The cheer lasted until we arrived at my parents’ home down the road. My daughter had been watching Fluffy, as there are no pets allowed at the B&B.  My mom was not happy with the arrangement of Willow watching the dog. She asked why we had to go stay at a B&B, and accused both Willow and I of ‘secret lives’. I understood immediately that my mom had projected her insecurities of our relationship onto my daughter. I gently explained to Willow that if she wanted to call and ask, there would be no secrets, and that Grandma being upset was not personal to her.

This anger was directed at me for staying one night at a B&B for our honeymoon night, 6 weeks after being wed. I thought back to the last 3 vacations my mom and family had taken.  I had not been invited. The kids asked if they could go, and I allowed them, but was never asked to go myself. The last vacation my family took without me, Carlton and I decided to elope. Planning a wedding, and having no home was a competition and the wedding was taking a back seat. We just wanted to be married; we did not care about a big stressful party. Obviously my mom did not view it as a beautiful union, but instead admonished my kid for watching the dog so we could spend 17 hours on a makeshift honeymoon night. I love you mom, but jeez…

Let’s now circle back as to why I do not understand the motivation for community to help. How can a stranger want to help, when my own blood and pathology cannot seem to stomach the sight of me? That’s an old moldy cookie to chew up and swallow.  The paradigm has changed and I can see now. Like Edith, I am a woman in the woods, seeking the answers within myself. This is where we find our strength, where we find who we are.

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